My continued thanks to everyone for all that you are doing across the University. As lockdown continues to ease, our plans for a phased return to campus are progressing well, thanks to the considerable efforts of all those involved. I recognise though that there remain many unknowns, concerns and uncertainties that we will need to continue to engage with and address over the coming weeks and months. I also know that Covid-19 is having many varied and serious impacts on the lives of our staff and students and that it can be incredibly difficult to manage the many demands you experience. Please continue to prioritise your health and wellbeing and please ask for support if you need it.
Covid-19 continues to have a major financial impact on Kent as it does across the sector. I will be writing to you about that with more information shortly. You will no doubt have seen a range of articles and opinion pieces in the media about the unprecedented financial harm it has caused universities across the sector and the risks it poses to longer term sustainability. While there has been some Government support – in the form of bringing forward Student Loan Company payments and Quality Research Funding – which will help support cash flow in the early part of 20/21, there has been no new money offered to the sector. Student Number Controls have been brought in as a way of ‘stabilising admissions’ for 20/21 but this brings with it challenges as competition for students (international and home) only intensify.
Together with other vice-chancellors, I have been engaging with Universities UK on a regular basis to feed into and lobby Government. This has enabled meetings with the Minister of State for Universities, where we have set out the case of need for financial support for universities to protect the teaching and research base, raised the need for Government to provide timely advice on opening up campuses, as well as asking Government to proactively promote UK HE internationally. In addition, we have been in touch with our local MPs across Kent and Medway updating them as to the challenges we face and asking them for their support as we engage with Government on these issues.
Universities have a crucial role to play in the economic and social recovery from the impact of Covid-19. This morning I will be presenting to other Board Members of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, on the impact of Covid on the 9 universities within the SELEP region. I will be noting the economic and social impact of these universities, the significant role they have within our region and the part they will play in its recovery from the impact of COVID-19, a role we can only play if we are in a sustainable position ourselves. I will be asking for their support to advocate on our behalf for additional government support to enable us to play our part in regional and national recovery.
I will continue to do all I can to help navigate us through these challenging times and I thank you for your support.
Professor Karen Cox | Vice-Chancellor and President